Christmas Tapes 1969
Today we have so many ways to convey our Christmas greetings to one another. We can email family and friends. We can text, tweet, call, and of course, send a good old fashioned Christmas card and letter the old school way through the United States Postal Service.
I remember the Christmas of 1969 very well. I was eight years old. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon In July. It was the technological, modern age. Given the advances made by man that year, my Mom and her sister decided to get with the times and begin corresponding with one another through recordings made on reel to reel tapes. Cassette tapes were about 3 years away.
Since my Aunt Doris and Uncle Ken and my cousins Ron, Jim, Bob, Darin and Sherry lived in Oregon, it would be like they were there with us if we were able to hear their voices. Keep in mind that long distance phone calls cost a fortune in 1969.
So off to the store my mom and aunt went to buy the new tape recorders. They had just been made smaller and the price had come down on these marvels. I remember the first tape we made and sent to Oregon. It was me, my Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma and my great Uncle Ken. Dad wasn’t good at speaking. I think his line went something like, “Hope you’re good. We’re doing pretty good. Had snow last night.” Mom spent a long time talking about lots and lots of minutiae from all of our daily lives and then some. Then it was great Uncle Ken’s turn. He fancied himself as the family humorist. His opening line was this joke: “If athletes get athlete’s foot, what to astronauts get?” [pause] “Mistletoe!” The table broke into laughter. His face was beet red. I think I even heard his body make an unnatural sound. Maybe it was Grandma.
Anyway, fast forward to about two and a half weeks later. We got a tape in the mail from my Uncle Ken and Aunt Doris and the cousins. On a Sunday night, we gathered around the table with unbridled excitement to hear their voices like they were in the room with us. Uncle Ken was the trail boss on this recording. “Repeat after me!” Hi Grandma and Grandpa!” Chatter in the background. “Bob and Jim! Quit talking! This is a recording! Now repeat after me! Hi Grandma and Grandpa!” “Hi Grandma and Grandpa!” (quiet little voice) “Hi Uncle Rusty and Aunt Caroline and cousin Jay.” More trouble. I heard yelling and crying in the background. “Darin and Sherry! Do you want me to spank you both? Behave!”
Well, you get the idea. Uncle Ken wasn’t up to editing the recording. I was hoping against hope to hear Uncle Ken dish out a good old fashioned butt whipping, but to my disappointment, it never happened. I never sat at a kitchen table that long in my life! However, the time was used well enough to make my own devious plans to use the tape recorder.
Richard Nixon had nothing on me. Long before he even thought about bugging the Democratic Headquarters and causing the Watergate scandal, I was bugging my Mom and Dad. Unbeknownst to them.
It was great! Although I didn’t get much information from my clandestine activities, I did get one nugget which hit me like a sledge hammer in the chest. That Christmas I learned the old man himself was Santa Claus!
1969 was the year I saw tremendous history being made along with experiencing a loss of innocence and the beginning of a coming of age. Technology since then has had that effect on us. Good and bad.